21 October 2020
Hundreds of EU & US lawmakers urge PresidentAbdel Fattah al-Sisi to release prisoners of conscience in Egypt
Earlier this week, more than 278 lawmakers fromacross Europe and the United States sent public letters to Egyptian President,Abdel Fattah al-Sisi with a strong message denouncing the situation of prisonersof conscience in the country. In a show of mounting concern, 84 members of theEuropean Parliament, 138 members of national parliaments across Europe, and 56 membersof both chambers of the US Congress urged President al-Sisi to halt the unjustimprisonment of human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and political activistsin Egypt, who have been imprisoned solely for exercising their human rights.
The undersigned organisations consider this tobe a timely and much needed step to address the dismal human rights situationin the country and call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately andunconditionally release all those detained solely for peacefully exercisingtheir human rights. It is high time for the Egyptianauthorities to uphold the rightsto freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly and to break thecycle of impunity for serious human rights violations.
Particularly at this time of aggravated healthrisks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the lawmakers called on Egypt to prioritisethe human rights of detainees. The letters, issued oneafter another in the US and Europe, echo similar calls made earlier this year bythe Office of the United NationsHigh Commissioner for Human Rights, UN human rights experts and international healthbodies, and demonstrate increasing concerns regarding the prevailing climate ofimpunity in Egypt.
The letters come amid a continued deterioration of human rights inEgypt, just weeks after the Egyptian authorities once again resorted tounlawful force, mass arrests and censorship to crackdown on protests againstthe deteriorating economic situation. Despite the high risk to their lives,safety and freedom, Egyptians continue to make their voices heard. Thegovernment has also instrumentalised the COVID-19 pandemic to further curbfundamental freedoms and clamp down on any criticism of its handling of thehealth crisis.
Someof the prisoners of conscience named in the letters, including Ramy Shaath and Zyadel Elaimy, have spent over a year in pre-trial detention for their peaceful politicalactivism. Human rights lawyers such as Mohamed al-Baqer and Mahienour alMassry, also named in the letters, have been targeted and detained forrepresenting victims of enforced disappearance or arbitrary detention.Journalists Esraa Abdel Fattah,Solafa Magdy, Hossam al-Sayyad, andMahmoud Hussein have all been detained for their critical reporting orviews, further denying the public its right to information. Finally, theletters also named detained human rights researchers, including Patrick Zakiand Ibrahim Ezz el-din, who have been held in detention amidst the authorities’zero tolerance to human rights activism.
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
FIDH, in the framework of the Observatoryfor the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
OMCT (World Organisation Against Torture), in theframework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders